HRP SU23-34: Research Opportunity with Dr. Henry Smilowitz

Project Mentor

Dr. Henry Smilowitz
Department of Cell Biology

Undergraduate Research Opportunity Description

Project Description Our lab, in collaboration with a small biotech company, has pioneered the use of non-toxic heavy atom nanoparticles (NPs) to enhance radiation therapy (RT) of tumors. Projects will involve proof of concept studies of the efficacy and microlocalization of both the INPs and a novel NP with exciting new properties for the treatment of tumors with an emphasis on brain tumors. Another project will study a novel NP for the delivery of inhibitory RNAs and/or microRNAS in combination with drugs to tumors–with an emphasis on brain tumors. We also have a atherosclerosis project using heavy atom nanoparticles to study atherosclerotic plaque progression and regression in live mice over time. Please see our cell biology blurb for our publications and research interests.
Project Direction
1. Cancer: Radiation therapy (RT) is used to treat some 50-70% of cancers. It is a mainstay of brain cancer therapy. Methods to enhance the efficacy of RT will prolong patient survival and will synergize with chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Further, NPs have also been used to deliver inhibitory RNAs and drugs to experimental cancers–sometimes with surprising efficacy. Our collaborative studies with a lab at UConn Storrs will study a novel NP to deliver inhibitory RNAs, microRNAs, and drugs to tumors. Such therapy should be complementary to heavy NP enhanced RT as well.
2. Heart Disease: Most studies on the regression of atherosclerotic plaques require the sacrifice of the mice to study the status of the plaques. Our lab has developed methodology to study atherosclerotic plaque progression in live mice over time using heavy atom NPs. These methods should allow the study of new methods to regress atherosclerotic plaques and thereby prolong life.
Mentorship and Supervision
The PI is in the lab and his office is adjacent to the lab. There will be constant impromptu discussions and meetings as well as lab meetings.
The student will be asked to select a relevant paper from the literature and present to the lab.
The student will be required to keep a notebook that will be reviewed.
Feedback will be on a daily basis.
Student Qualifications We are looking for highly self-motivated, excellent, students who value honesty and are willing to embrace challenge, work hard, read a lot, and take initiative. Previous research experience is very desirable, but not a requirement. I usually take rising seniors who are interested in fall research and honors thesis in their senior year, but rising juniors can apply. Most students who come to the lab are interested in medical school or careers in science. Many of the techniques we use for our research involve instrumentation (MicroCT, confocal microscopy). Therefore, students should be facile with computer-based instrumentation so that they can pick up new instrumentation readily with training. Most of our work utilizes mice and sometimes rats. Students will be expected to learn to handle rodents. This will require training and lots of practice, especially tail vein in sections and surgical skills. While practice is key, it helps to be good with one’s hands.
Summer Schedule Options Research Dates: May 22 to July 28, 2023
Schedule: M-F, 9am-5/6pm
Project Continuation Fall 2023, Spring 2024
Academic Year Time Commitment 9 hours/week
Possible Thesis Project Yes


Submit an online application for this research opportunity at The application deadline is Monday, January 30, 2023.

This application requires a cover letter, a resume or CV, an unofficial transcript, GPA, science GPA, a brief statement of research interests, and a brief statement of career interests. Reference names and contact information (phone number and email address) should be provided in the application.